Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fantastic Fest 2013 Review: COMMANDO - A ONE MAN ARMY - Javi's Take

Directed by: Dilip Ghosh
Written by: Ritesh Shah
Starring: Vidyut Jamwal, Jaideep Alawat, and Pooja Chopra
Synopsis: After an elite soldier is abandoned by the Indian government to be tortured, he vows revenge on the corruption of his country starting with a regional thug with political aspirations.

There is something strange about reviewing international movies. Culturally speaking, there are a lot of nuances that might be strange to foreigner, and without having to dig through some of the cultural zeitgeist, it's difficult to say that something is legitimately a critique or something that is lost in translation. There was that fear going into what would be a personal first, a Bollywood movie. Luckily, COMMANDO - A ONE MAN ARMY, takes as much from 80's action movies as it does with the musicals that seem to be tied to the culture.

The story is typical: a super-skilled commando is abandoned by his country's government due to politics, escapes, vows revenge on the corruption of his country, and winds up getting involved with a local thug trying to marry a gorgeous woman for political purposes. You know, the usual. What sets this movie apart is the intricate dance and action choreography.

The dance sequences are a fun way to break up the action. In the best dance numbers, it helps drive the story along, and at its worst, it feels like they are there to fill time. But nevertheless, the choreography was amazing. Even though one's knowledge of dance might be limited, it is easy to see that there are constantly shifting styles of dance, and the complexity of the dance numbers is something to be appreciated.

Vidyut Jamwal as Karanvir Dogra is an impressive fighter. The types of stunts that he pulls would make you think that they must have been CGI'd, but the movie states that there was zero stunt double or wire work in the fight scenes. The fights scenes are all done with wide shots where you can clearly see who is hitting who, and you can get a proper sense of place, unlike clumsier Paul Greengrass wanna be movies.

Jamwal does a an amazing job as Dogra with conveying the cool sense of confidence and swag that an old school action hero should have, but he has enough of a personality to crack a joke or a smile while saying catchy one liners. Jaideep Alawat is also fun as hell as the pupil-less (you heard right) villain, A.K. 47, a local thug with political aspirations. A.K. 47 has penchant for dramatically taking off his glasses, receiving bad jokes on his phone and telling it to his posse, and ordering the killing of lots of people. He's a villain you love to hate and want to see defeated.

If there is a detractor, it would be the down time between the fight scenes, especially the ones involving Simrit, Dogra's love interest. These in-between scenes have a tendency of abruptly stopping the action and the flow of the movie. You do get to learn about a lot of the background of Dilekrot, the region the movie takes place in, but it's all exposition. But more troubling is Simrit's arc. When we're introduced to her, she's a defiant and strong lady that wasn't taking anyone's B.S. But after being rescued by Dogra, she turns into a damsel in distress that acts in a very juvenile fashion. She yells at snakes, she pretends to be Dogra and clumsily pretend-fights like a little kid.

COMMANDO - A ONE MAN ARMY feels like a great primer for those wanting to get into more Indian cinema. The movie makes a great entry into the action genre as well as the dance movie genre. This movie will leave with a craving for some great action, and maybe the desire to check out more Indian cinema.

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